Letter 330a

330a. Dorothea Veit to Schleiermacher in Berlin: Jena, 19 November 1801 [*]

Jena, 19 November 1801 [1]

Our dear friend, I am herewith announcing Friedrich, who, God willing, will be departing here on the coming postal day, the 23rd. [2] Hence anticipate receiving him there with you on Friday. A week from today at this time, you will be sitting next to him and being astonished at his embonpoint and his ample appearance, and I will then be thinking of you both. [3]

He sends his warm regards and wants me to write to you because he is so overwhelmed with his poetic projects these past few days that he simply collapsed on the pillow exhausted. [4]

You can say anything to Wilhelm you deem fit. I know of nothing that need be kept a secret from him or through which you might compromise us. For neither our letters nor anything we think about that wretched affair [5] contain anything he does not inevitably already know as well as we (excepting Caroline’s Bamberg letter, about which Wilhelm knows nothing and is not to know anything) — were he not subject to such convenient memory lapses. [6]

But you must do us the favor of trying to find out from Wilhelm in conversation what his and Caroline’s plans are for the coming summer. That is extremely important to us. Friedrich will explain why in person. Write and let me know what you find out. [7] . . .


[*] Sources: Briefe von Dorothea Schlegel an Friedrich Schleiermacher 109; KGA V/5 262; KFSA 25:308. Back.

[1] Dorothea apparently made an error in her date (manuscript reads “September”); dating here according to KFSA 25:634 and KGA V/5 262n1124. Back.

[2] Friedrich actually left ca. 29 November 1801 (see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 16 November 1801 [letter 330], note 5).

His arrival in Berlin was delayed because of problems with the postal service; see Dorothea to Schleiermacher in early December 1801 (Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:301; Briefe von Dorothea Schlegel an Friedrich Schleiermacher 114; KGA V/5 276 [no. 1132]; KFSA 25:310): “The postal coaches are keeping a miserable schedule.”

Friedrich was in Berlin from 2 December 1801 till 27 January 1802 (Briefe von und an Friedrich und Dorothea Schlegel, ed. Josef Körner [Berlin 1926], 453; KFSA 25:636) ([1] Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]; [2] the promenade Unter den Linden ca. 1800 from Adolf Streckfuss and Leo Fernbach, 500 Jahre Berliner Geschichte: Vom Fischerdorf zur Weltstadt, Geschichte und Sage [Berlin 1900], 401):




[3] “Embonpoint,” Fr., “plumpness, stoutness, obesity.” See Caroline’s remarks to Wilhelm on 26 November 1801 (letter 332): “heaven help him, he is becoming quite fat.” Here Friedrich Schlegel ca. 1810 (from Friedrich Vogt and Max Koch, Geschichte der Deutschen Literatur von den ältesten Zeiten bis zur Gegenwart, vol. 3 [Leipzig, Vienna 1920), plate following p. 32):


In March 1802 (letter 441), Caroline remarks that Friedrich “is allegedly already almost as fat, idle, and gluttonous as a monk” (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Gramsalbus wettet [1793]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [6-420]):



[4] François Lucas, Le Traitant (ca. 1760–97); Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur FLucas AB 3.1:



[5] Between Caroline and Schelling. Back.

[6] Dorothea is presumably referring to the letter Caroline wrote to Adalbert Friedrich Marcus and which Dorothea does finally mention and even recount to Wilhelm after all in a letter from Vienna on 16 January 1810, i.e., after Caroline’s death (Krisenjahre 2:107–8; letter 453a in present edition); Dorothea writes there in part (illustrations: [1] A. G. Eberhard, “Zwist und Liebe,” Neues Taschenbuch zum geselligen Vergnügen 1 [1801], 2–65; illustration in the next volume [1802]; [2] Franz Hegi, old cemetery in Freiburg im Breisgau, from Iris: Ein Taschenbuch für 1813; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung; [3] representative illustration of a cemetery visit with a young boy: Taschenbuch für Häusliche und Gesellschaftliche Freuden auf das Jahr 1802; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):

But how, now, am I to address that grand, bitter accusation you mention, which sends a cold shiver down my spine? My dear brother, how on earth could anyone persuade you of such abominations concerning me?! The truth is that I did not speak with a single person in Bocklet about either the child or her mother.

On my arrival there, [in late July 1801] I found a letter to Hofrath Markus warning him and the entire spa society against both me and Madam Paulus as the most despicable and vile creatures; I read the letter after having to give my solemn promise to Hofrath Markus to write absolutely nothing to you about it. And I kept my promise as long as the authoress was alive.

In her vain conceit, it likely never occurred to her that Markus would betray her that way as a favor to Madam Paulus, of whom she thought so little! Since we did not know to whom else she may have written such letters, we thought it best to deny her and her acquaintance as far as possible. I was there under my father’s name and pretended I had come from Berlin so as to avoid being questioned in any way.

Nor did that ever happen either, except at one fête [Fr., “party, gathering, festivity”] in Aschach at the house of a pretty young woman who did indeed remember you well; you had paid some attention to her during your own stay in the spa [summer 1800]; I have forgotten her name, but as far as I can remember it was an Italian name; her husband was the provincial or spa director.


Well, we were at her house, and Markus teased her a bit because of her predilection for you, and told her she could in fact query me about you, since I was related to you. After I had explained and specified the correct nature of the relationship, she took me aside and asked me whether you were not the real father of the deceased child, and the mother merely the stepmother. They argued with everyone who maintained that the opposite was the case. Of course, I told her that the opposite was indeed true, whereupon she effusively praised your fatherly love for the child, not mentioning the mother any further. I, too, remained silent.

Then it so happened that I was waited on by a girl who had also waited on the child during her illness. She related a great deal to me about the child’s final hours without at all noticing the interest I took in it all, apart from the same interest any stranger could not fail to take in such a story.


Early one morning, when it was completely quiet, this girl also led me to the child’s grave.


No other person has ever learned of my visit there, and I myself never spoke with anyone about either that or her illness, though admittedly much was said about it at the spa. That that particular accusation is a slander you can easily enough assess from the fact that the letter to Markus was written much earlier than my own arrival there; so what did she possibly already have against me at that time? And how was I not completely torn down in that letter? – – –

But enough, this final point has so upset me that I can hardly guide my quill.

Caroline’s letter is apparently no longer extant, lest it be in the literary estate of Marcus. Marcus may possibly refer to the letter or situation in his correspondence with Karoline Paulus (seven letters in 1801, 1 in 1810); an assessment of these letters is yet outstanding. Back.

[7] It is of some interest that Dorothea feels comfortable soliciting Schleiermacher — the theologian — to engage in essentially duplicitous or disingenuous behavior toward Wilhelm. Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott